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Creating the perfect resume

Leahcim Semaj, Ph.D. ­ Change Agent, Contributor

ONE OF the most important components of the job search process is having a perfect resume. Anything less than perfect is not acceptable. Here is one area over which you have full control. You can't afford not to do your best.

The academic year 1978 to 1979 was very special for me. I spent this year as a Post Doctoral Fellow at Educational Testing Service in Princeton, New Jersey. This privilege strongly shaped my professional development. One year to do whatever I wanted to do, with one rule, do it well.

I still follow one piece of advice received from my mentor, Dr. Curtis Banks. His view was that any place from which you were not free to leave at any time was a prison. If you do not feel free to leave your present job and not only survive, but do better, then you are in prison. His message to me was that the way you demonstrated that your job was not a prison was to have an up-to-date copy of your resume at all times. It is amazing how many people fall into the prison category. How many of you have an up-to-date resume? Remember that in the New Work Order you may be changing careers five or six times in your lifetime.


Seek advice from many sources but go beyond what they tell you. Start with the Internet, read books and magazines, consult experts. Investigate if these persons have ever personally effectively used the advice that they are giving. How many people have successfully used their advice? Find out if you can how many people they have ever hired! This is one of the best contexts in which one gets to see a wide variety of bad resumes.


1. Make sure that you have a clear job search objective prior to writing the resume. Once you have determined your objective, you can structure the content of your resume around that objective. Think of your objective as the bull's-eye to focus your resume on hitting. However, do not place this objective on your resume if it is not saying to the prospective employer that your object is to work for that company and help it to be more profitable. Why should they hire you to pursue your private fantasy? To be safe keep your objective to yourself.

2. Be concise and selective. Include only the most relevant experiences and omit personal or sensitive information. Do not give prospective employers information with which to discriminate against you. For example, the common practice of starting with your height, weight, health and marital status is only important if you are applying for a modelling job. For any other position all you are doing is giving the prospective employer ammunition to use against you. This practice also encourages the reader to begin creating a picture of you based on the most trivial aspect of your being and one that does not relate to the task at hand. The only thing you can do to make this list worst is to add your religion; this is no-one's business but yours. Plus chances are that they will not see this information in a very good light. Seven-Day Adventist translates to "Not able to work on Friday evenings and Saturdays". Jehovah Witness translates to "coming to sell magazines every day". Rasta translates "ganja smoking in the rest room". These are not helpful first impressions.

3. Make a good first impression. Ideally, a resume should be one page, but if it can't be, the most important issues must be on page one. There is good reason for this. You can get carried away with your resume because it is the only one you have to produce. However, the person to whom you are sending that resume may have to look at over 100 in one sitting. If the first page does not get the reader's attention, chances are the other pages will not be read. I hope you see why you should not waste page one with height, weight, marital status and such trivialities.

4. Think of your resume as a marketing tool. Think of yourself as a product, potential employers as your customers, and your resume as a brochure about you. Market yourself through your resume. What are your features and benefits? What makes you unique? Make sure to convey this information in your resume.

5. Use your resume to obtain an interview, not a job. A resume is like an argument in which you are trying to persuade your reader to give you an interview. You don't need to go into detail about every accomplishment. Strive to be clear and concise. The purpose of your resume is to generate enough interest to have an employer contact you for an interview. Use the interview to provide a more detailed explanation of your accomplishments and to land a job offer.

6. List all your skills on page one. Most people underestimate their skills and often leave out their various people skills. You need to convince the prospective employer of all the great things you can do for them. Any level of competence in a foreign language should be included. We encourage people to close their skills list with a description of their level of 'computence', that is, the range of hardware and software with which you are competent. If your skills list is looking thin to you, think how it might look to the reader. Remember that in the New Work Order you will need brand new skills every three to five years.

7. What have you achieved? The best prediction of what you will do tomorrow is what you did yesterday. Yes, we know that change is possible, but most times it is not likely. Page one should also have a list of all your achievements that may be relevant to the job for which you are applying. If you have little or no work experience, share your school, volunteer and extracurricular activities. If you have none to share, why should someone hire you?

8. Do not include references on your resume unless they are specifically requested. State "References Available Upon Request". You can take a typed, complete list of 2-4 references with you to any interview (name, title, organisation, relationship, street address, email address and telephone number). Be sure to call the referee to refresh his or her mind before the prospective employer calls.

9. More tips at another time.

We Welcome New Travellers

If you are joining this weekly quest for the first time, you can easily catch up on the past instalments by logging on to On the Download Page, you will find all the back articles. You may also leave your comments or questions on the message board at the same site or E-mail me at You are also invited to join us on Mondays on Nationwide (HOT102FM) 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. to continue this discussion. Each week we will take you deeper into understanding yourself and how to use this knowledge to take charge of your personal and professional life.

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